Updated: May 09, 2017 11:51 AM GMT
Self-styled god-woman Radhe Maa feeds a cow in Amritsar on April 11. Cow vigilantes have been attacking people accused of slaughtering the animal revered by orthodox Hindus. (Photo by IANS)
Protests continue in India after the government failed to act decisively against cow vigilantes who killed several people.
Rajasthan state saw the most unrest after police failed to arrest criminals who lynched a Muslim man a month ago. The number of people murdered in cow-vigilante related incidents has risen to 12, with two killed in Assam last week.
Civil rights groups and political parties staged demonstrations in all major cities of Rajasthan and in New Delhi demanding the arrest of the men who beat Pehlu Khan, who died of his injuries on May 3. Attackers suspected the farmer was transporting cows for slaughter.
According to media reports, two more Muslim men were beaten on April 30, leading to their deaths next day. The men were also accused of taking cows to an abattoir.
Since May 2015 at least 12 people have been killed due to tensions surrounding cows who orthodox Hindus regard as a holy animal. However, state governments run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have not yet acted against the violence.
"Even a month after Khan was brutally beaten to death in full public view the government has yet to bring the culprits to book," said Sister Carol Geeta, who joined protesters demanding justice in Ajmer town in Rajasthan on May 3.
The nun, who belongs to the Missionary Sisters of Ajmer congregation, said the late dairy farmer was on his way back home with newly bought dairy cows when vigilantes waylaid his truck and lynched him.
"It is high time the government completely banned cow vigilantes as they have become serious social problem and a threat to society," said the nun, who is also a lawyer.
She joined activists from civil rights group Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) who organized protests in four major cities in Rajasthan and in New Delhi, pressing for government action on Khan's case.
Several student groups and rights organizations joined the May 3 demonstration in front of New Delhi's Bikaner House, the official house of Rajasthan state in national capital, demanding cow vigilantes be banned.
At the protest, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union president Mohit Kumar Pandey said most victims are Muslims, a religious minority, and the government's "silence will only marginalize" religious minorities further.
They submitted a memorandum to the resident commissioner of Rajasthan in New Delhi demanding the "immediate arrest of all" involved in the murder of Khan and a 10 million-rupee (US$151,00) compensation payment for his family. They also wanted monetary compensation for two others who were injured in the attack, Azmat Khan and Rafiq Khan.
Kavita Srivastav, PUCL's Rajasthan chief told ucanews.com that if governments "continue to protect criminals it would send the wrong message. The vigilantism in cow protection has turned out be a serious problem."
In April alone there were four incidents of cow vigilantes attacking people, all Muslims or socially poor Dalits, three were killed including Khan, she told ucanews.com.
Increased violence, state silence
Vigilantes have stepped up their activities with armed night patrols ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power in 2014 and pushed for a nation-wide ban on cow slaughter, according to activists.
Cow vigilantism gained widespread attention when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched for allegedly possessing beef in his home in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh in September 2015. Subsequent lab tests proved the meat was not beef.
Ever since the BJP came to power incidents of such violence have increased with no government official condemning them. Human Rights Watch said in an April 27 report that, since May 2015, at least 10 people have been killed over the issue. On May 1 media reports said two more people were killed, pushing the total to 12.
Human Rights Watch urged the Indian government to "promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed 'cow protectors' who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims and Dalits over rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef."
Meanwhile, India's Supreme Court started to hear a public interest litigation from April 7 demanding cow vigilante groups be banned.